All Hands Lost chronicles the tragic last voyage of the gypsum freighter SS Novadoc as she sailed from the Annapolis Basin into a raging nor’east storm in the Bay of Fundy in March 1947. Loaded with four thousand tons of Nova Scotia gypsum, she foundered off Portland, Maine, taking all twenty-four crew members, thirteen of them Nova Scotians, to their deaths.
The story is told through the eyes and memories of those who lost family members on the Novadoc — the brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren and friends of the young Nova Scotia men, many of them war veterans, and two women who perished in the tragedy. The book tells of the seafaring life of Novadoc’s captain, Allan J. Vallis, OBE, an experienced merchant mariner and war veteran who unwittingly took the vessel into a hurricane-force storm.
Henshaw takes a critical look at the formal inquiry into the sinking and the report that deemed the loss “an act of God.” He questions the seaworthiness of an aging vessel that sailed into that fateful storm with makeshift repairs. He also questions discrepancies in compensation paid to the families of the twenty-four crew members who died with the ship.
The book examines the history of Paterson Shipping, the Ontario company that owned Novadoc, and Senator Norman Paterson, the wealthy Winnipeg grain merchant who founded the company in 1926. All Hands Lost is a moving and factual account of a 1940s tragedy at sea, as well as a tribute to the memory of the men and women who perished on the ill-fated Novadoc.